Megafires: Rare Events or the New Norm?
A Collection of Case Studies Exploring the 'Megafire' Phenomenon
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This collection of case studies was developed by students in the ERTH 102 'Megafires: rare events or the new norm' course sponsored by the Department of Earth Sciences, Montana State University. This course was offered for non-geoscience majors and counted for a Core Curriculum credit in the Contemporary Issues in Science rubric. The goals of this course were to:
- Learn about basic fire ecology and fire behavior
- Understand the primary drivers of fire at different spatial and temporal scales
- Research historical patterns of fire over the past several thousand years in different biomes of the world
- Identify conditions in fuels and climate that lead to large fires in the earth system
- Characterize the criteria used to define megafires by scientists, the media and the public
- Empower students to ask their own questions, identify reliable sources of information, and to find answers
- Develop skills to find, prioritize and utilize information; communication skills related to web-authoring; and critical thinking skills
Students selected topics of interest to their personal lives. They searched the scientific literature, the web and media for credible sources of information. They distilled this information and wrote the supporting text to develop these webpages. The following case studies are the results of their semester long projects.
How to use these case studies
The term 'megafires' is becoming more and more commonly used by media and scientific literature in describing large fires that have a significant impact on human environments. The phenomenon of large fires is not new but the impact and frequency of these fire events is increasing with a warming climate and land-use change in many settings worldwide. Much of the media coverage of megafires fails to provide a deeper understanding of the causes and consequences of large fires, and, in many cases, perpetuates myths that are poorly supported by evidence. The case studies linked below provide a more in-depth examination of what causes large fires, how these events are changing over time, their impacts, and where megafires are becoming increasingly evident. Use the following links to explore myths and evidence-based understanding of the megafire phenomenon.
- Megafires: Australia
- Megafires: Colorado
- Fires in Yellowstone: past, present and future
- Australia's fuel management policy: will this reduce the risk of megafires?
- Climate Change and Fire in the United States
- Substrate - fire interactions
- Bark Beetles and Fire
- Is it possible to fire-proof residential homes?
- Can we reduce the risk of megafires through forest management?
- What are the costs of fighting wildfires?